I noticed the fly tying art work of Jose Luis Venalonzo and was immediately impressed with his skill and talent. Jose agreed to talk with us and share his journey into the art of fly tying. Part of this journey, as you will read, involves a local fly shop and speaks to the special relationship that cool local fly shops, like Angler’s Den in Pawling, New York have with their customers. Jose provides some great advice for beginning flytiers and lets us know about the places he fishes. Finally, Jose also talks about his faith and how it intersects with his passion and love for fly fishing.
You make some gorgeous flies. What got you started in fly tying?
Thanks. Before I started fly tying, I was making rooster tails spinners. One day I went fishing, and I found a flybox on the river bank. There were some nymph flies, and I found it interesting. I searched online for fly material and did not find anything, because I did not know the name of the materials or the names of the flies. I remember that a friend named John Biron gave me magazines of Cabela’s. Looking in the magazines, they had fly material. I drove an hour and a half to Cabela’s and bought fly stuff and returned home.
I looked at some videos on YouTube and tried to make some flies, but I did not have the right stuff. But now I had an idea of what to look for online and I found a fly shop called Angler’s Den, where I met Tom and Joe, the owners of the fly shop. Tom told me how to pick the right fly material, and I started practicing. I bought a vise and was on the right track. Angler’s Den has fly tying nights on Thursdays, in the wintertime. In that shop, I met Tyler who had much experience and motivated me to perfect all the flies that I made and to experiment with different materials. Angler’s Den introduced me to the world of fly tying art.
What do you enjoy about tying your own flies?
I enjoy everything. Making flies is an art, and not all people can do it…that’s why fly tying is special. Trying to imitate the real fly is a challenge, and I like the challenges. Making a fly and taking it to the river and catching trout with your own flies, made with your own hands, inspires me to be better and enjoy each of the flies I make. It makes me appreciate the nature, each of the feathers we use comes from nature.
Making flies is like living in another world. Making all kinds of flies makes you think like a trout. I investigate how a trout behaves, how Nymph behaves, how fly behaves, to be able to imitate nature with your hands…that’s why I enjoy tying my own flies. Plus we help local fly shops buying material from them and not from outside the State or the Country.
For someone who has never done it, what basic starting equipment is required?
First, a fly tying vise, fly tying bobbing, fly tying thread, fly hooks size 12…that’s a good size for beginners as it is not too big but also not too small…Natural Pheasant tail, Partridge skin, copper wire, and bag of natural hare’s ear dubbing. With those, you are ready to start the adventure of fly tying. With this material you can do mayfly nymphs, pheasant tail nymphs, hare’s ear nymph, hare’s ear and partridge wet fly and many more. That’s enough material for someone who starts, would be basic according to my thoughts.
Are there any books or videos that you recommend for those getting started in fly tying?
Some of my favorite books are Hatch Guide for New England Streams, 101 Favorite Dry Flies, 365 Trout Flies, Orvis Fly Patterns Index, and Catch That Fish: The Essential Guide to Fly Fishing Tactics. This last book tells you when and where to fish.
What flies should someone start with when first learning?
I would recommend pheasant tail nymph and hare ear nymph. These two imitate all kinds of nymph in the river and are a little easy to do…plus almost all flies are made with dubbing or peasant tail. These are the basic flies and are effective patterns in the River.
What are three pieces of advice that you have for new fly tiers?
First go to a local fly shop. They will help you choose the right material to get you on the right path. The right material is important to make the right fly. They will also tell you what flies are hatching so you will do the right fly of that season.
Number two…read many books related to fly fishing and watch videos. This will help to perfect your flies. Books and videos are important for learning the knowledge of fly tying.
The last one is very important…patience. It is very easy to lose patience when you are fly tying, sometimes we want to make a perfect fly, but that takes time. Or when we break the thread we are doing the fly with. To perfect a fly takes time. You will probably have to do the same flies 10 times or more, but if you are patient, the fly will be almost as perfect as you want it. Be Patient!
Where are some of your favorite waters to fish your creations?
Here in New York, there are many streams to fish, but I fish in East Branch Croton in Brewster, New York, in Putnam County, the West Branch in Croton Falls in Westchester County, and the Ten Mile River in Dutchess County New York. Each of these has something special but what these three have in common is that they are very busy, many people fishing in them during the trout season and that makes it difficult to fish since the trout are very scared.
Fishing my fly creations in these rivers makes it a challenge since it is not easy. But these are where I try to see how effective my flies are.
The Ten Mile River is a river with lots of trout of all sizes, brook, brown, and rainbow trout. The River has water pools with huge trout, and you can fish from April 1 to October 15. West Branch Croton is a stream that connects the New York water supply. It only covers about 2 miles but in those waters you will find huge brown trout. They are difficult to catch because they are busy waters.
And my favorite stream is East Branch Croton because I can fish all year round. It’s very busy as well but I know every corner of the stream. This little stream is full of browns and rainbow trout These rivers are special to me. And I like to try my flies here, and if my flies catch fish in a busy river they catch fish anywhere.
I know your faith is very important to you and you just graduated from Bible College. Congratulations. In what ways do your fishing and faith intersect in your life?
Thank you. That’s right, my faith is very important to me. I’m a Christian, and yes, I graduated from theology college, an associate in theology. I’m still studying trying to get a bachelor’s degree in theology, Everything we do works for faith. When I make a fly, I have faith that it will work. I will go to the river. and I will catch a trout…that is faith. Fly fishing can be a dangerous sport since it requires entering the river, but by faith we know that we will leave there and continue doing flies. I try to balance between my Christian faith, my family and fly fishing, for everything there is time. I hope to never be in the situation of choosing between my faith and fly fishing but until then lets keep it on the fly…tight lines.
Cool stuff Jose! Thank you for the interview.
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